Congress Ends The Feds' Medical Marijuana Prohibition -- Can Patients And Caregivers Finally Exhale?

Dawn Papple

Prohibition on medical marijuana is essentially over at the federal level, according to media reports. Thanks to a provision in the new spending bill passed by Congress, medical marijuana patients and caregivers don't need to worry about being raided by the Feds. One of the most significant turning points in the history of marijuana prohibition passed through the house and Congress tucked neatly inside the 1,603-page federal spending bill. The spending bill, among many things, blocks the Justice Department from becoming involved in state-level medical marijuana measures. The bill also prohibits the Drug Enforcement Agency from involving itself in industrial hemp production, according to the Washington Post. The president signed the spending bill this week.

The spending bill's passage, with the federal medical marijuana overhaul, closed the battle between states and the Feds over medical marijuana, according to the Detroit Free Press. Under the medical marijuana provision in the spending bill, patients and caregivers in states where medical marijuana is legal no longer have to wonder if federal agents will raid their operations. Though the president had already assured medical marijuana users, growers, and sellers that federal agents would stay away from their weed, this bill codifies it into law. Federal agents are now prohibited from interfering with medical marijuana in states where medical marijuana is legal, according to several mainstream media reports.

"The war on medical marijuana is over," Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, told the press. "Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana … Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up."

While it takes the heat off of the medical marijuana community, Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says the medical marijuana war is not completely over at the federal level because technically, marijuana is still federally illegal.

"A great number of these medical cannabis businesses are cash-only businesses, because federal banking regulations still deter banks from doing business with these new cannabis-related businesses, and money laundering opens up prosecution opportunities for feds," St. Pierre stated. "Feds effectively use the threat of civil forfeiture to get private land owners to evict and/or not lease to cannabis-related businesses."

Another big win for marijuana advocates is the recent announcement that the federal government has legalized marijuana use, growing, and selling on Native American reservations by the tribes.

"No one at NORML or other drug policy reform groups knows the impetus for this sudden change in cannabis policy directed at Native American tribes," St. Pierre explained. "Speculation is that a number of tribes in states with medical cannabis and tax-and-regulate access have been seeking clarity from the Department of Justice regarding what if any commerce can they engage in re: cannabis?"

Do you think the new provision in the spending bill will really end the federal government's war on medical marijuana?

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